An esoteric discussion of linguistics, literature, and politics by five members of Northern Ireland's Field Day Theatre Company--Seamus Deane, Seamus Heaney, Richard Kearney, Declan Kiberd, and Tom Paulin. Most of the writing here is of the anthology variety--scholarly, dry, and done with a heavy hand. Only Heaney breaks this mold, offering a bit of doggerel in opposition to his inclusion in an anthology of British writers. Fortunately, Heaney's doggerel seems to be inspired by the muses. As for the rest, the authors look to discover the sources of Ireland's troubles in matters of language. Paulin bemoans the lack even of an Irish/English dictionary--leaving Irish ""a language without a lexicon, a language without form."" Dearie branches off from this to demonstrate how the language itself has served to create a cultural notion--imposed by the English--of the Irishman's barbarism. Kearney explores the uses of mythology by each faction in interpreting the past and the present. An Afterword by Thomas Flanagan (The Year of the French] attempts to make sense of the mix presented here. It doesn't succeed any more than do the essayists themselves.